Against All Odds: HIV/AIDS Epidemic Among Indigenous Papuans
Seen through a one-way mirror, sex workers wait to be chosen by a customer inside Bar Kharisma, a popular brothel in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.
In Papua, prostitution is a profitable industry. The influx of non-Papuan migrants into the region brings sanctioned prostitution. Brothels, often disguised as clubs, karaoke bars, and massage parlors, hire mostly non-Papuan sex workers. These formal establishments employ 4,000-plus sex workers who earn ten times more than their Papuan counterparts. Above and beyond the financial discrepancy, the biggest difference between Indonesian brothel workers and Papuan sex workers is the disproportionate access to HIV preventive care and support. Most HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) intervention programs are geared towards sex workers in brothels. For example, in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, there are over 30 brothels, and non-Papuan sex workers in these establishments undergo monitored testing and counseling for STDs every month, and for HIV every 3 months. As a result, they are much better informed about HIV/AIDS and have better access to care and support than indigenous Papuan sex workers.